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Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Dancing Masters (released in 1943) - Starring Laurel and Hardy

‘You’re always sticking your foot into something…’
And this time Laurel and Hardy (proprietors) at the Arthur Hurry School of Dancing are kicking up and sticking their foot into many sticky pies! The opening scene is funny and endearing as a surprisingly agile Hardy instructing pretty ladies that ‘gracefulness is everything’- never mind the ditty is ‘London Bridge’, in an adjoining hall, Stan pirouettes like a ballerina, showing off ‘the dance of the pelican’, his “own original creation”- as his mum looks on, a lady comments “isn’t he light?”, and mum retorts scornfully “in the head!”
The duo is facing financial troubles, even though their friend and pupil Trudy Harlan (Trudy Marshall, Too Many Winners) pitches in. Unbeknownst to them, elsewhere in the city are a bunch of goons at the ACME Importing Co (a clever cover-up), who plan to sell insurance, instead of ‘protection’, to throw the FBI off of their scent. Thus, ‘The Last Mile Insurance Company’ is born.
Their first clients are the gullible and easily intimidated proprietors at Arthur Hurry (the Company guys think they have ‘tremendous business’) - who at refuse the insurance, but are not so subtly told that the ‘joint’ may burn down, suppose there were to be an explosion, or a partner (gesturing at Stan) broke an arm or a leg - this grabs their attention, and are filled with wonder that one could actually earn money for something like that! So the going rate for Stan’s missing limbs are decided thus:
- breaks an arm: $5000
- breaks an arm AND a leg:$10,000
- breaks an arm and leg, AND loses an eye: $25,000
- and in the event he breaks his neck: Oliver Hardy, beneficiary for the full amount : $100,000!!!!$$$!!!
The first premium of $100 paid, and a threat hanging over him to pay it again by the third of the next month -the Company leaves, duping the duo. Meanwhile, Trudy invites her love interest, Grant - a mechanic at her Father’s factory, along with Laurel and Hardy, as her parents are leaving for Washington. On the other hand, her Father is hoping that the future Vice President of his company George Worthing, would also be his future son–in-law. He fires Grant for accidentally injuring George.

At her house, the three men make themselves comfortable, but Grant spills some ginger ale on his trousers, so Trudy offers to dry them for him. As Laurel and Hardy bicker over an issue, Hardy goes out of the front door - only to come charging back in: the Harlans are back with George Worthing! They hide upstairs in the bedroom, under the beds, whilst Grant (trouser less) ducks behind a sofa. Harlan Sr. is giving George a tour of the living room, he accidentally fires a gun, and Grant’s cover is blown - he tells Harlan that he was invited by Trudy, the men don’t realize he is in his undershorts, when Mrs. Harlan enters the room - she screams in shock, Grant leaves, George threatens to punch him in the nose of he ever sees him hanging around Trudy. Mrs. Harlan, in hysterics after seeing her husband’s secret stash of liquor in an elaborate bar behind the book shelves - hurries up to her bedroom, where Laurel and Hardy are still under the beds!
Wentworth Harlan and George unwind over drinks - the latter discloses Grant’s secret invention - an invisible ray that would revolutionize warfare. George has the hideous plan of sabotaging the invention when Grant runs out of money, to claim it for his own, Harlan is interested and decides to be in cahoots with him. A hard day over, the Harlans settle down in bed - unaware of their strange bedfellows, one of whom dear ol’ Stan, falls asleep like a baby, but snores like a hibernating bear - waking up Mrs. Harlan. She in turn wakes up Mr. Harlan - and they bicker about each other’s snoring. Hardy tries to shush Stan, Mrs. Harlan thinks it’s her husband shushing her - ‘Don’t you shush me, if there’s anything I hate - it’s a shusher’- she declares. Meanwhile, the duo - Stan and Hardy try creeping out, getting cold feet when they see the sheer drop from the window.
As they hang on for support, grabbing a carpet, Hardy drags Wentworth’s bed out of the window into the fountain below, but they manage to escape as he screams for the police! Their troubles start to pile up, with the landlord threatening to dispossess them, evict them, throw them out - unless they pay the rent by midday. Hardy refuses to withdraw from the bank as the $300 they have is ‘our nesting’. Despite their resolve, they end up using it to buy a grandfather clock at an auction!
On the other hand, Trudy wants her friends to help Grant, so that the presentation of the invisible ray gun can take place; the Ollie , in the guise of Professor Findash Gorp and Stan, as his assistant, proceed to give a demonstration; as the catchphrase goes ‘well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into’- in  true-blue L & H style, they goof up - burning down Harlan’s property, and worse, destroying Grant’s invention! They decide that they must repay $10,000 to Grant - Ollie concocts a devious plan on the sly to ensure that Stan breaks his leg - so that he can claim insurance on his behalf, unaware that he’s been duped by the Company.
He overhears someone say how they broke their leg on a roller coaster - that gives Ollie an idea, and he takes the unsuspecting Stan to the boardwalk. Meanwhile, George Worthing, never one to give up, steals the blueprints of Grant’s invention - to the horror and dismay of Harlan, who realizes he’s misread the executive’s character - and so, fires him. He also promises Trudy to finance Grant’s research.
Elsewhere, our poor unsuspicious  Stan goes along with Ollie’s plan, only fate has different ideas in store- and in the end, after a harrowing ride in a bus on a roller coaster, it is Ollie whose leg breaks, and who has to recuperate in hospital whilst good ol’ Stan waits by him, munching his fruit! Brilliantly directed by Mal St.Clair, there is never a dull moment – great watch for a rainy afternoon with the kids!

The Dancing Masters (released in 1943) - Starring Laurel and Hardy

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